When I was walking home from school today, I said hello to a man I was passing on the sidewalk. He turned and asked me if I spoke Chinese. It surprised me because very few people have talked to me outside of the classroom. I pulled my earphones out of my ears and answered no. I told him I was an English professor at the university nearby and I had just arrived in China two weeks ago. He then told me that he had come from another province to try to get a job in Hangzhou. He’s a middle school English teacher but wants to become a translator. He got an unexpected job offer from another nearby university and has a ten minute mock lesson as an interview tomorrow. He asked if I had any advice for improving his English. I told him that his English was really good and that I had no problem understanding him. He thanked me and asked for advice again. I told him that I really wasn’t sure what advice to give other than to keep listening and speaking as much as possible. He then asked if he could give me his 10 minute lesson so that I could then give him some advice.
Let me give you some background info real quick… I was quickly walking home for two reasons. 1) It was 90 degrees and extremely humid. I don’t normally sweat but it’s a whole different world for me in Asia! 2) I had to go to the restroom pretty bad. That is another fun conversation in Asia. It seems at least one expat is always suffering from some sort of explosive situation. Haha. I was hurrying home to use our own bathroom rather than a squatty potty at the school… because that takes some skill!
The funny thing though, when the guy asked if I could do that favor for him, I forgot about being uncomfortable (in both aspects!) and agreed to it. Right then and there he recited his lesson for me. It was really good. He was really good. Yes, he had an accent but I could understand him and his content was pretty interesting. He was full of energy and I thought it was quite fun. I told him that I thought the lesson was awesome and that I hoped he got the job because he seemed like a really great teacher. He thanked me and asked for things he could do to improve. Haha! At this point I knew he was not going anywhere until he got some advice. I thought about it for a minute and then said that he could slow his pace a little bit… take a 1-2 second breather between thoughts. He asked for some clarification so I explained. He started grinning and thanked me again. He said he felt more confident after talking with me. I gave him my email address and told him to let me know how the interview went.
As I turned to walk away, I realized that I was dripping sweat down my chest, back, and forehead. My shirt was wet in spots and my whole body was cooking. My stomach also reminded me to hurry home! Haha. I’m grateful that my body took a chill pill for those 15 minutes so that we could chat. I really hope he gets the job!
(Photos above: a street near the university, plants overtaking the fence around our university, and an aging wall around a nearby university)